Date set for multi-nation conference on Syria

Announcement is met with hostility from Syrian opposition groups as humanitarian crisis continues to grow

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby (R) listens as U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi speaks during a news conference at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Oct. 20, 2013.
Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters Picture Stream / MED

An international conference aimed at ending Syria's two-and-a-half year civil war will be held in Geneva on Nov. 23 and 24, according to an announcement by the Arab League chief on Sunday. However, it is unclear if any of Syria’s opposition groups, which have become increasingly divided, will attend.  

Arab League chief Nabil el-Araby made the announcement at a news conference at the pan-Arab organization's headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo after talks with the Arab League-U.N. envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

The proposed conference will attempt to convince Syria's rival sides to agree on a transitional government based on a plan adopted in Geneva in June 2012.

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But the fate of the conference is up in the air, as Syria’s fractured opposition has fought with the international community over how to best address the ongoing conflict, which has so far left 100,000 people dead and created more than 2 million refugees.

Syrian opposition groups immediately criticized Sunday’s plan, saying they were not consulted. They said they could not accept any negotiations that allowed for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain as head of state in any transitional period.

"This is a conspiracy against the Syrian people," said Bassam al-Dada, an official with the Free Syrian Army. "The most important request of the Syrian people – the distancing of Bashar (al-Assad) from the transitional period – was ignored."

He said the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, the main alliance of political opposition groups, would meet on Nov. 1 to discuss the matter further.

The squabbling comes as Syrians face continued violence, and a widening humanitarian and health crisis caused by the civil war.

On Sunday, Syrian state news agency SANA reported that rebels drove a truck laden with more than a ton of explosives into a post at the eastern entrance of the city of Hama. 

The explosion appeared to have set ablaze a gasoline truck nearby, increasing the damage and casualties, according to SANA.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group opposed to the Assad government that monitors the conflict, says the Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al-Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, had carried out the attack, which the Observatory reports killed at least 43 people.

It was the second deadly assault on a checkpoint in two days. On Saturday, rebels led by Al-Nusra fighters set off a car bomb while assaulting a checkpoint near Damascus, killing 16 soldiers.

Syria has fallen into increased chaos as rebel groups have become more divided, complicating an already dire humanitarian crisis.

Million of refugees have fled the country as food, shelter and health care availability deteriorate.

On Saturday, the World Health Organization reported workers had found two suspected cases of polio in Syria, the first appearance of the incurable viral disease there in 14 years.

"Syria is considered at high-risk for polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases due to the current situation,” the WHO said in a statement.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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